New Study Links Racism to Strokes in Black Women

A new study from Boston University found that racism is increasing the risk of Black women having strokes. 

The report was a part of the university’s Black Women’s Health Study, which followed more than 48,375 women with no history of cancer or heart disease at the beginning of the study, between 1997 and 2019. The study finds that racism can be related to housing, employment and police encounters, and people who experienced those had a 38% higher risk of stroke than those who didn’t report those experiences. 

The goal of the study was to measure the importance of social determinants of health for Black women’s outcomes. This study reveals that racism doesn’t just cause emotional harm, but it also takes a physical toll. One manifestation is the increased risk of stroke, and Black women already have a 47 percent greater risk than white women. They are also more likely to have them at younger ages. 

While someone of any race can suffer from a stroke, more research needs to be done on prevention in the Black community, especially since Black people are more likely to die from strokes. 

“The magnitude of the public health burden of the racial disparity in stroke is staggering,” George Howard, Dr.P.H., lead author and professor of biostatistics at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health, previously told “We estimate that there were 22,384 additional stroke events in blacks occurring in 2014 above what would be expected relative to rates in whites.”

“We need more aggressive prevention efforts for stroke risk factors, particularly focusing on why blacks have more strokes,” said Howard. “Racial differences in the development and control of risk factors are to blame.” Pew Research reveals that 79 percent of Black Americans felt they had been discriminated against because of their race or ethnicity. 

The Boston study also found that psychological stress from racism can lead to inflammation of the body—putting people at risk for cardiometabolic conditions such as type 2 diabetes, which may also increase your chances of having a stroke. 

The study highlights the link between racism and stroke risk, but the study authors shed light on the importance of managing controllable risk factors. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, those factors include diet and exercise, monitoring your blood pressure, and regular doctor visits to assess stroke risk. Other important factors include obesity, cigarette use, hypertension, and high cholesterol.

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